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... & the West Blog

Feb 23 2017 | ... & the West Blog
A new paper suggests that “mineral easements” might provide a tool to block hydraulic fracking and the oil and gas wells that have been sources of fear and opposition from New York to California.
Feb 14 2017 | ... & the West Blog
California avoided a major catastrophe in the past week as heavy rains compromised the 700-foot Oroville dam. Here is a day-by-day account of what happened and what state engineers and safety officials did.
Water may be one of the most critical environmental issues for reporters to cover in years to come, said western water experts and journalists at the 2017 Knight-Risser Prize Symposium at Stanford University.
Jan 31 2017 | ... & the West Blog
Valley Fever, a lung disease born of invasive fungal spores that are carried on clouds of swirling dust, is the best-known medical secret of the American Southwest. The parts of California and Arizona where the fungal spores flourish are once-rural places that are now population magnets, where new construction disturbs the earth and can send spores flying.
By Rob Jordan
Through a newly launched blog at Stanford’s Bill Lane Center for the American West, former New York Times environmental correspondent Felicity Barringer explores people’s connections to western water, landscapes and other resources.
Dec 21 2016 | ... & the West Blog
This is the first of a series of occasional posts looking at at how the West would have changed if a major historical event had – or had not – occurred. Here, we look at the implications of a different Supreme Court decision in the 1963 Arizona v. California case.
Dec 7 2016 | ... & the West Blog
The fishing rights promised to the Pacific Northwest’s Native Americans 160 years ago are proving the sharpest knife the region's environmentalists possess. So far in 2016, these rights have undergirded decisions to block two planned terminals to ship coal to Asia. Another decision could cost Washington state a billion dollars in highway repairs aimed at protecting salmon.
Nov 29 2016 | ... & the West Blog
For decades, landowners were free to pump water from under their land at will. Now a landmark 2014 law sets up new bosses to call the shots on who gets groundwater, when and how much. And it is maps that will influence how the competition for control evolves.
Nov 15 2016 | ... & the West Blog
I cherish it beyond words, and my entire adult life has been devoted to trying to get people to appreciate and protect it. It has therefore come as a small disappointment to the promoters of a Bears Ears National Monument designation that I have not climbed on board their crusade.
Nov 15 2016 | ... & the West Blog
Massive tracts of land being declared National Monuments violates the very Antiquities Act used to enact them as they are to be "confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected." What object is being protected that requires a landmass larger than Delaware to protect it?

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...& the Best

Western Articles and Media Elsewhere
Compiled by Felicity Barringer and Rebecca Nelson

Articles Worth Reading: Dec. 4, 2018

There’s a Bullseye on the American West, When One Looks at Climate Change and its economic and ecological consequences, according to a recent federal report. The report emphasizes growing water scarcity, wildfires, sea-level rise, and health costs brought on by climate change. Tribal, local, and state governments are working on climate adaptation plans. High Country News Denver Post Arizona Daily Star

The Private Firefighter Industry Grows. In response to worsening fires across the West, demand has increased for private firefighter companies. But private firefighters are not an affordable option for many homeowners. Mountain West News Bureau/Elemental

A Sanitation Crisis at the Border. Water contaminated with sewage could have health impacts in communities along the U.S.-Mexico border, whose residents are advocating for water treatment plants and updates to infrastructure. Ticklish relations between the United States and Mexico complicate sewage management policies. NRDC

A Measure to Cut Back Wyoming’s Wilderness Study Areas Advances. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Liz Cheney, would release around 400,000 acres of federal wilderness study areas in Big Horn, Lincoln and Sweetwater counties to general management, eliminating special protections. Park County commissioners are hoping that the bill will be amended to also release the local McCullough Peaks and High Lakes wilderness study areas to less restrictive management. The Powell Tribune

Recycling Scandal Crosses State Lines. A group of Arizona residents are accused of stealing over $16.1 million from California’s beverage recycling program by bringing in thousands of bottles and cans from Arizona. The CalRecycle program gives California residents an opportunity to earn back a tax added to bottled goods by recycling their bottles and cans at special facilities. This is the first recycling scandal in California to cross state jurisdictions. Arizona Republic

Articles Worth Reading: Nov. 20, 2018

Raging Fires Made California’s Air 60 Times Dirtier than world health standards last week, and more than 10 times worse around the San Francisco Bay area, as smoke from the Camp Fire in Paradise sat on communities 200 miles away. Smoke, not flames, is the deadliest public health risk from wildfires. Bloomberg Grist

As Lake Mead’s Levels Drop, Can Seven States in the Colorado River Basin Agree on a drought contingency plan to share the predicted water shortage? A rebellion by two Arizona agencies may impel the six other states to make decisions on their own. Op-ed articles by the state’s governor and a former Interior Secretary scold the agencies for their intransigence. As Gov. Doug Ducey wrote, “The foundational purpose of a multi-state drought contingency plan is to transition to a drier future….However…demands for water and money to mitigate reductions are growing to insurmountable proportions.” Phoenix New Times Arizona Capitol Times Arizona Republic

Gray Wolves’ Protection Under the Endangered Species Act May Not Last, if a bill just passed by Congress becomes law. The measure ends federal protection from the wolves in the 48 contiguous states. In the Northwest, where wolves are considered endangered in the western two-thirds of Oregon and Washington, state agencies would take over. Environmental groups say the wolves’ recovery goals are not far off, but may not be reached if the federal government bows out. Oregon Public Broadcasting

With The New Approval of An Industrial Solar Facility in the California Desert, and the news that its electricity has already been sold, the state, which is already ahead of its legislated goals for renewable energy development, will give a big boost to the national boom in renewable energy — a national success that will eventually face strong competition from China. Clean Technica Solar Industry Magazine Solar Industry Magazine Time

Their Canadian Cousins Thrive, But the Orcas of Puget Sound Face An Existential Crisis. While they are the most studied whales in the world, they among the most endangered orcas. As the population of Canadian orcas has grown by 250 percent since 1974, and is at 309, the population of Puget Sound’s pods, now 74, has grown barely nine percent in the same period. Experts blame the impact of the expanding human and industrial presence in the orcas’ range. The three southern pods have not successfully reproduced in three years. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has put together a task force on recovering the whales. Seattle Times

Articles Worth Reading: Nov. 7, 2018

Six Western States Have Voted on Contested Environmental Policies. Five of Them Failed. Some ballot initiatives gave midterm election voters a chance to support salmon populations in Alaska or to support a fee on carbon emissions or to oppose recent environmental rollbacks involving drilling. Oil, gas, and mining companies poured money in opposition to statewide ballot measures that could increase costs or diminish revenues. The story of the campaigns and the work of environmental groups ran before the election. The results came today, in places ranging from Colorado to Washington State to Alaska. Mother Jones Denver Post Montana Standard PV Magazine Seattle Times KTUU Anchorage

The Navajo Tribe’s Future Without Its Major Employer and With a New President. As the various financial schemes for prolonging the life of the Navajo Generating Station fell apart, tribal members who work there must choose between finding employment where the new owners assign them, or staying on the reservation until the plant closes a year from now, then having a small chance of any job that pays as well. Their decisions will be made against a new political backdrop, as Joseph Nez, at 43, was just elected the youngest Navajo president ever. ASU/Cronkite News Indian Z News

Rare Dinosaur Fossils Are Threatened by the reduction of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Vast areas of land that may contain important paleontological discoveries are now vulnerable to potential energy development. About 250,000 acres of land with a high potential for fossils are being considered for mineral development. Salt Lake Tribune

A Water Reckoning in Colorado. Farming communities in the North Fork Valley of Colorado are water-rich in an era of increasing water scarcity. Farmers continue to use high volumes of water for irrigation. However, with climate change, the community will have to change outdated and inefficient systems in order to share water more cooperatively. High Country News

Indigenous Food Sovereignty in British Columbia. Activist Jessie Housty, a member of the Haíłzaqv nation, is educating young people in her community about their traditional food sources and culture. Her efforts are part of a larger movement to address food insecurity and malnutrition in indigenous communities through providing access to cultural foods. Civil Eats

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Recent Center News

Dec 17 2018 | ... & the West Blog, ... & the Best | Posts Recommended by the ... & the West Blog
Pollution on the California-Mexico border; snowpack heads for a steep decline; water decisions cut both ways; utilities enact wildfire safety measures, and more. Some of the best reads from the past week.
Dec 14 2018 | Center News
The Center’s director looks back on an eventful year for our research projects, public programs, and undergraduate endowment.
Dec 4 2018 | ... & the West Blog, ... & the Best | Posts Recommended by the ... & the West Blog
A recent federal report details economic impacts of climate change on the West; the private firefighting industry is growing; sewage poses health risks for border towns; a recycling scandal crosses state lines between California and Arizona and other recent articles about the West’s environment.